Island hopping in Bazaruto

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 41 / March 2020

Dear All,

Normally I write to you with a happy travel heart but the current Coronavirus has brought a deep cloud to everyone’s lives, especially regarding travel.

On a more positive note, Helen and I are currently safe and well on the Bahian coast of Brazil and Jess flew home last week from Brazil. We shall report back from time to time and try to add some positivity to these tough times. Let us all hope normal life will return soon and with it the desire to travel!  Who knows how long this will last, but once we are free to do so we urge you to start travelling again, not only to be able to enjoy the wonder of travel lateral-style but also to support the many small, often owner-run properties, guides and others all of whom are dependent on us for their living.

Last September Nico covered the 2,500 km coastline of Mozambique stopping off at all the gorgeous beaches, islands and hidden corners that so many of you have visited. Her journey ended on my favourite beach “hangout” in Africa: Kaya Mawa on Lake Malawi.

Please enjoy Nico’s findings and let’s all hope for some brighter days ahead.  Let us look forward to future travels, and reminisce about past adventures.

With my best wishes,

“I like to spend some time in Mozambique The sunny sky is aqua blue And all the couples dancing cheek to cheek It’s very nice to stay a week or two And maybe fall in love just me and you”

Bob Dylan was recommending taking a holiday to Mozambique back in 1976 and we still wholeheartedly agree with him today. Mozambique is still mostly overlooked by tourism and its long coastline has remained virtually untouched retaining its wild beauty. From the Quirimbas National Park in the North to the coastal dunes near Maputo in the South, Mozambique offers unparalleled scuba diving, dhow sailing, kite surfing, whale and dolphin watching, relaxation and cultural insight, just to name a few of the possibilities. The country is an ideal conclusion to a safari adventure, but it is also optimal as a standalone beach destination. In fact, the main issue will be deciding where to go on the 2,500 km of stunning coastline!

Quirimbas Archipelago

The small coastal town of Pemba is the gateway to the Quirimbas Archipelago, one of laterallife’s most beloved beach destinations. So much so in fact, that Nick chose this National Park for one of his big birthday celebrations. It’s easy to see why while flying from Pemba over the islands and sandbanks that poke up from the clear waters of the Indian Ocean. The reefs here are exceptionally healthy and full of life offering fantastic snorkelling or scuba diving, as well as deep sea fishing and the opportunity of swimming with dolphins.

Only four Quirimbas islands were permanently inhabited before 1975, the most important of which was Ibo. Here the Portuguese, as well as many Indian traders, held sway and built three forts, the largest of which, star-shaped São Baptista, is still standing. Exploring Ibo Island from the quaint historical walls of Ibo Island Lodge is a must for all visitors to this historically significant island where traditional silversmiths still occupy the shady corners of São Baptista and giggling children play on its dusty roads. The history and culture of Ibo make a good contrast with Quilálea Island, a tiny dot of an island with no inhabitants but plenty of massive baobab trees, exotic birds and tropical fish. Base yourselves in the beautiful Azura Quilálea, and snorkel the island’s shores, dive from the main beach, kayak the mangroves or relax beneath the baobabs.

Ilha de Moçambique

For four centuries Ilha de Moçambique was the capital and commercial centre of Portuguese East Africa, and the ensuing rich mixture of European, Arab and Indian cultures dominate the architecture and flavours of this small coral island to this day. Staying in one of the beautiful grand houses or restored warehouse such as the stunning Villa Sands or Feitoria Boutique Hotel, located in Stone Town where the wealthy Portuguese officials used to live, feels like travelling back in time to the 16th century.

In addition to the history and culture of Stone Town, the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean are irresistibly tempting and a relaxing stay at a beach lodge such as Coral Lodge is highly recommended. Located only 10 minutes from Ilha by speedboat, the enormous villas are set right on the white sands of the beach or facing the lagoon. The presence of the lagoon ensures water-fuelled fun throughout the day, regardless of the impressive ocean tides, and the constant flow of colourfully clad women heading to the well to gather fresh water only adds to the magical character of this lodge. For those searching for world class scuba diving, there is no better place in the country than Nuarro Lodge, an eco-lodge located on Memba Bay, about 4 hours’ drive from Ilha. The exceptional marine wildlife and reef more than make up for the quaint but simple bungalows and waking every morning to the splash of humpback whales frolicking within 10 meters of the golden half-moon beach is absolutely priceless.

Bazaruto Archipelago

Landing in Vilanculos, the gateway to this beautiful archipelago, is an experience in itself.  The small, sandy islands of Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago lie just a few kilometres from the sleepy mainland town, and at low tide the retreating sea exposes millions of sand spits and tiny isles and paints swirling patterns in the water. This stunning expression of nature’s creativity is the first glimpse of the area that visitors get when landing in Vilanculos. This sleepy town, with its road-side shops, sand-floor bars and simple thatched lodges is worth a brief visit and to this end we recommend staying in the elegant Santorini Mozambique. However, the real attraction remains the archipelago itself. Located in a protected marine national park, island hopping between the 5 islands is an absolute must do as the smallest islands, including Bob Dylan’s favourite – the aptly named Paradise Island, have no accommodation facilities.

The recently opened Azura Marlin Beach on Benguerra Island is a welcome and fun addition to the island’s beautiful lodges and is located on one of the most stunning stretches of beach on the island. The elegant white bungalows are located just a few steps from the sand and relaxation will be an inevitable side effect when staying here. Marlin’s more grown up sister property, Azura Benguerra Island is located on the western coast of the island and is walking distance from the high end &Beyond Benguerra Island. Both lodges are laid out like a traditional bush camp featuring guest cottages on either side of a central dining and living room and private plunge pools in each room. In addition, the latter boasts one of the most unique beach bars in the world, built from a traditional dhow of the sort still used by local fishermen. The risk of getting bored on the island is non-existent thanks to all the land and water based activities but also thanks to the new Azura Peri Peri Beach Club, perfect to enjoy great cocktails, fun pizzas, personal grills where guests can sizzle their own seafood and an open-air cinema on selected nights. The Indian Ocean here is fabulously warm and rich in marine life, with plentiful manta rays and whale sharks, schools of dolphins and loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. It is also home to about 200 dugongs, Africa’s last sustainable population of the big grey mammals thought to have given rise to the myth of the mermaid

Maputo Special Reserve

The capital city, Maputo, is quite unpractically located at the very southern tip of the massive country, on an expanse of wild, dune-backed shoreline leading all the way to the border with South Africa. The miles of unspoiled coastline between the border and Maputo form Mozambique’s most southern national park, Maputo Elephant Park, and the unique coastal dune forests are home to a growing quantity of wildlife such as elephants, giraffes, zebra, hippos and crocodiles which add to the extremely rich marine ecosystem.

This wild and unspoilt stretch of coast was protected before the civil war and independence and as such is perfect for those searching for remoteness and nature. There are very few places to stay but the ones that are there are incredibly beautiful. Eco camp Anvil Bay has been built with as little disturbance as possible on the natural environment and is an exclusive hideaway for nature lovers searching for the perfect barefoot luxury escape. Slightly further down the coast is the ultra-luxurious White Pearl Resort, whose 22 suites feature bright, clean lines, contemporary furniture and a palette inspired by the surrounding coastal landscape.

Up Periscope: Kaya Mawa, Lake Malawi

Kaya Mawa’s uniquely designed rooms are dotted across a golden half-moon sandy beach and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the coast but in fact this beach bolthole is situated on tiny Likoma Island up in the north east of the immense Lake Malawi. Likoma’s primary claim to fame is its massive 20th century cathedral. St Peter’s matches the size of Winchester Cathedral in the UK, yet is here on an island in the middle of a lake in the middle of Africa! This friendly little island dotted by imposing baobab trees has a few bustling local communities and some lovely beaches, making Kaya Mawa the perfect spot to relax post safari or just to escape to for some R&R.

On top of serving what is possibly the best and freshest food in Africa, there is heaps to do here – out on the water kayak, snorkel, dive, kite surf, paddle board, sail…etc etc. On land mountain bike, quadbike, explore the church and the island, visit the Katundu textiles who are responsible for the dreamy interiors at the lodge or challenge the local kids to a game of football. If it’s all too much just kick back on the golden sand beach with a good book.

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